Labour MP Clive Lewis apologises for 'get on your knees' comment

Nadia Khomami
Clive Lewis, who has apologised after footage emerged of him making derogatory comments. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

The Labour MP Clive Lewis has apologised for using a misogynist phrase at a Labour party conference fringe event last month after being criticised by several prominent female colleagues.

Video from the Momentum event in Brighton surfaced on Friday in which Lewis, the MP for Norwich, told the actor Sam Swann to “get on your knees bitch”. The language attracted widespread condemnation from politicians on all sides but Swann later described the situation as “jovial”.

Harriet Harman wrote: “Inexplicable. Inexcusable. Dismayed.” Stella Creasy said: “It’s not OK. Even if it’s meant as a joke, reinforces menace that men have the physical power to force compliance.”

Jess Phillips suggested bringing teenage girls to work in order to teach male colleagues about gender inequality.

On Friday afternoon, Lewis tweeted that he apologised unreservedly for the language he used.

A Labour spokesperson said the party condemned the language used by Lewis, adding: “It was completely unacceptable and falls far short of the standard expected of Labour MPs.”

Swann told the Guardian: “It is clearly jovial and nothing vicious. He later told me to fuck off after he downed his can of Red Stripe and I offered him mine to down too and that was also clearly a joke.

“The whole event was so brilliant for seeing MPs letting their hair down and fucking around with people who support them. I think Clive Lewis is an absolute legend.”

The minister for women and equalities Justine Greening urged Jeremy Corbyn to condemn Lewis’s language. In a letter to the Labour leader, she said: “The recent use of language by Clive Lewis MP was totally and utterly unacceptable in the world of the ‘kinder, gentler politics’ you claim to support.

“Senior women in the Labour party have understandably condemned his words, and as leader of the Labour party, you should too … Will you now step forward and condemn the sexist language of Clive Lewis, and the unacceptable attitudes that lie behind it, and set out how you plan to tackle misogyny in the Labour party?”

Other panellists at the event, hosted by Novara media during the final night of The World Transformed, the Momentum-backed fringe festival, said the video was taken out of context.

Aaron Bastani, the co-founder of Novara, posted a full video of the moment, and said: “Of course I don’t think a parliamentarian should use the B-word. But my God, you really understand why public thinks political class has lost it.”

The Guardian columnist Dawn Foster tweeted: “For context, I’m stood next to Clive in this video – he said it to a male audience member in jest, not me.”